Washingtonians Support Both Improving Amtrak Cascades and Building a Very High-Speed ​​Rail :: NPI’s Cascadia Advocate

Evergreen State voters favor major investments to improve Amtrak stunts intercity rail service as well as build a more expensive ultra-high-speed rail line to connect major metropolitan hubs in the region, according to a recent survey conducted for the Northwest Progressive Institute.

62% of voters who participated in the NPI’s November 2021 poll of the Washington state electorate said they would support the update and implementation Amtrak Cascades Long Term Plan to electrify existing intercity rail service at a cost of around $10 billion, while 51% said they would support a long-term project to build a new ultra-high-speed rail line costing between $24 and $2 billions of dollars.

34% of respondents said they were opposed to updating and implementing Amtrak Cascades’ long-term plan and 9% were unsure, while 41% said they were opposed to building a new ultra-high-speed rail line and 8% were unsure.

These findings reinforce previous research conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) for the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce and other partners showing that voters want to build high-quality, high-frequency intercity rail service. to connect the main towns of Cascadia.

Here is the question asked by FM3 last summer:

Here’s some info on a project in the Pacific Northwest that would create a Cascadia high-speed rail system with trains that travel 250 miles per hour on average.

This would make one-hour direct trips between every major city between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon – with stops in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and potentially other cities in between. Stations in each city would be located with easy access to other modes of public transportation and airports.

This proposal would transform our passenger rail network into a faster, more integrated system that provides safe, efficient, fair and affordable transportation. Funding would come from federal infrastructure investments, as well as state and local transportation funding sources.

Would you like or would you oppose this high-speed train project linking the cities of the North West?

67% (two-thirds) of Washington respondents expressed support for high-speed rail after answering this question. 60% of Oregon respondents were also supportive. Only 27% of respondents in both states indicated their opposition. The total sample consisted of 1,616 participants from both states.

After reviewing the very encouraging results of the FM3 survey, we decided to develop a rigorous follow-up question for our survey summarizing important implementation details as well as describing the end result. Although FM3’s question did not mention costs (indicating only that funding would come from federal, state, and local sources), our question included cost estimates. He also noted that a fair amount of right-of-way would need to be acquired in order to lay new tracks.

Here is the text of our question and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Washington and Oregon are studying the possibility of building an ultra-high-speed rail line between Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene, Oregon, costing between $24 billion and $42 billion, which could support trains traveling at speeds ranging from up to two hundred and twenty (220) miles per hour. Building the line would require the purchase of a significant amount of land to build all-new tracks, but it would allow faster travel between major cities in the Pacific Northwest. Are you strongly in favour, somewhat in favour, somewhat in opposition or strongly opposed to the construction of an ultra-high-speed rail line between Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene?

ANSWERS:

  • Support: 51%
    • Completely favorable: 25%
    • Fairly favorable: 26%
  • Opposed: 41%
    • Somewhat against: 16%
    • Strongly opposed: 25%
  • Not sure: 8%

Note that even without hearing the explanation of the benefits of high-speed rail that FM3 provided in its question, Washingtonians are still favorable.

It’s very reassuring.

This suggests that there will still be majority support for going ahead with very high speed rail, even after the inevitable cost and logistical objections have been raised.

Those who participated in our survey saw or heard the very high speed rail question first. Then we asked them about updating and implementing Amtrak Cascades’ long-range plan, a related idea being discussed.

Here is the text of our question and the answers:

QUESTION: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose updating and implementing Amtrak Cascades’ long-term plan to electrify existing intercity rail service, allowing trains to travel up to one hundred and ten (110) miles per hour on existing tracks with non-polluting locomotives, at an estimated cost of approximately $10 billion in state and federal funds?

ANSWERS:

  • Support: 62%
    • Completely in favour: 34%
    • Fairly favorable: 28%
  • Opposed: 28%
    • Somewhat against: 11%
    • Strongly opposed: 17%
  • Not sure: 9%

In this second question, the number of uncertain answers was about the same, but support was higher and opposition was lower. As in the issue of very high speed rail, we have provided an estimate of the cost of the project.

Our survey of 909 likely Washington State voters in 2022 was conducted Wednesday, November 10 through Thursday, November 11, 2021.

It uses a mixed methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and respondent SMS responses only on mobile phones (50%).

The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence interval.

More information on the survey methodology is available here.

At the Northwest Progressive Institute, we believe our region should both invest in better Amtrak Cascades service as well as a new super-high-speed rail line that can move people quickly between cities in the Pacific Northwest. .

Because Cascades uses tracks owned by private freight railways such as BNSF Railway and Union Pacific (UP), there is a limit to what we can do with Cascades service on the existing corridor. Building a brand new line will certainly be expensive, but it will also be a good investment that will last. Once we have the right of way, we can continue to invest there.

Europe and Asia have demonstrated that modern high-speed rail is a worthwhile public service. Let’s make Amtrak Cascades the best it can be as soon as possible, while doing the work necessary to get the ultra high speed train off the drawing board and into the necessary pre-work and design phase.

Jose P. Rogers